April 24, 2007

Looking Forward to April 29, 2007--4th Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday

Every year on the 4th Sunday of Easter we read Psalm 23 and a section from John 10 where Jesus talks about himself as the Good Shepherd. For that reason it is known as Good Shepherd Sunday.

The Scripture Readings for this Sunday are:

  • From the Writings of the Early Church: Revelation 7:9-17
  • Psalm 23 (VU p.749)
  • From the Gospel: John 10:22-30

The hymns for this Sunday are:

  • 345 Come, Children, Join to Sing
  • 747 The Lord is My Shepherd
  • 340 Jesus, Friend of Little Children
  • 232 Joyful, Joyful We Adore You

The Sermon title is: I Just Wanna Be a Sheep

Early Thoughts: There is a song we used to sing at camp where the chorus went:

I just wanna be a sheep baa baa baa baa,
I just wanna be a sheep baa baa baa baa
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
I just wanna be a sheep baa baa baa baa

The verses then go on to name some of what the singers don't "wanna be" (a hypocrite, a Sadducee, a Pharisee). The song was based in part on the idea in the tenth chapter of John where Jesus is described as the Good Shepherd. If Jesus is the Shepherd then we who follow must be the sheep, right? A similar sentiment can be drawn from the opening verse of Psalm 23-- "The Lord is my Shepherd".

But do I really want to be a sheep? In contemporary imagery sheep are used to define rather stupid animals who succumb all too easily to the flock mentality. I suppose it is better to be called sheep than lemmings but not by much (although to be fair the image of lemmings blissfully following each other over a cliff is a bit of a Disney-created overstatement, but it is an image that sticks). We live in a culture that prides individuals. We encourage our children to grow up and think for themselves, not just follow a charismatic leader or go along with the crowd. Does shepherd/sheep imagery still work for us today?

I think it does, or at least it can. But in order for that to happen we need to recover a sense of what the shepherd does. As Psalm 23 makes clear, the shepherd protects and guides. North American culture still has a bit of a frontier mentality. This leads us to the somewhat erroneous belief that the best model of life is the "self-made man [sic]". To choose to follow, or even admit we might need, a shepherd is to choose to say we can't just pull ourselves through life by hauling on our own bootstraps. There is wisdom in being sheepish, in seeking the protection and guidance of the shepherd.

So do I really "wanna be a sheep"? I'm not always sure. Maybe by Sunday I will have a bit more certainty. Why don't you come and see what I decide...

April 15, 2007

Looking Forward to April 22, 2007 -- 3rd Sunday of Easter, Earth Day

This Sunday we will have soup and sandwich lunch following worship and we will have a viewing of Al Gore's Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth at 1:00.

The Scripture Readings for this Sunday are:
  • From the Life of the Early Church: Acts 9:1-20
  • Psalm 30 (VU p.757)
  • From the Gospel: John 21:1-19

The Hymns will be:

  • 217 All Creatures of Our God and King
  • 703 In the Bulb There Is a Flower
  • 186 Now the Green Blade Rises
  • 427 To Show By Touch and Word

The Sermon title is: The Earth's Easter

Early Thoughts: The challenge of Easter is that it calls us to embrace transformation. Easter is that event that changes the world for the early followers of "the Way" as they were called (the term Christian is a later addition). The experience of the Risen Christ turns the disciples from scared people hiding from the authorities into bold evangelists telling all they meet about what they have experienced. Paul's vision on the roadside turns him from vehement persecutor of the followers of Jesus into an evangelist who helped shape the developing Christian faith.

To this day Easter challenges us to be transformed. In the light of Easter Sunday, in the shadow of the empty tomb, we are pushed to allow ourselves, our priorities and our lifestyles to be changed -- sometimes changed drastically.

Every year people pause in mid-April to honour Earth Day. This day is a time to reflect on the state of the world around us. The signs of our impact on the environment are unmistakable. The cost of changing (or not changing) our way of living is hotly debated in terms of economics and "quality of life". But this year I am mulling on the question: What does/might Easter look like for the Earth? If we allow ourselves to be transformed what might that mean for the Earth?

In theological language, to make a real difference environmentally speaking will take repentance. Repentance is more than simply saying sorry, to repent is to turn away/turn around. Making a difference will also mean taking a risk. It will mean risking that the economy will struggle as we change not only our own attitudes but the way business is done. It may mean that there will be job losses as industry resets itself (which could also mean job gains as new technologies come on-line). But the hardest part is that first step, the step of turning away from the known.

Peter knew how to fish. He had worked all night and caught nothing. But then some voice tells him to do things differently. Many of us might have told Peter to give up, the fish weren't there. Why let someone else tell him how to do his job? But Peter took a chance. He did something differently and ended up with more fish then the boat could handle. Easter is something like that. Easter is God calling out to us, saying that we need to see things differently,to do things differently. How will we respond?

It is spring in the Northern Hemisphere. IT is a time of new life and new possibilities. Apart from tulips and crocuses bursting out of the frozen soil, what will this Easter mean for the Earth? What transforming visions are waiting for us along the roadside?

April 09, 2007

Looking Forward to April 15, 2007 -- 2nd Sunday of Easter

The Scripture Readings for this Sunday are:
  • From the Life of the Early Church: Acts 5:27-32
  • Psalm 150 (VU p.874)
  • From the Letters of the Early Church: Revelation 1:4-8
  • From the Gospel: John 20:19-31

The Hymns will be:

  • 245 Praise the Lord With the Sound of Trumpet
  • 185 You Tell Me That the Lord Is Risen (tune #625)
  • Dare to Be (insert)
  • 424 May the God of Hope Go With Us

For the Sermon this week we are having a guest speaker on behalf of Gideon's International.

April 08, 2007

Day HAs Come Again!

AS the sun throws its light over the world it reveals an empty tomb and a great mystery.

"You are looking for JEsus of Nazareth. HE is not here, he has been raised"

Christ is Risen! Life wins again, light conquers darknesss!

Alleluia! Alleluia!

A Blessed Easter to one and all.

April 02, 2007

Looking Forward to April 8, 2007 -- Easter Sunday

The day is here, we celebrate the wonder of the resurrection with song and prayer and by sharing together in the banquet of new life (aka communion).

The Scripture Readings this Sunday will be:
  • From the Letters of the Church: 1 Corinthians 15:19-26
  • Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 (VU p.837 Parts 1-3)
  • From the Gospel: Luke 24:1-12

Also the Story for All Ages will be based on John 20:1-18

The Hymns will be:

  • #157 Christ the Lord is Risen Today
  • In the Garden (see insert)
  • #173 Thine is the Glory
  • #481 Sent Forth by God’s Blessing

The Sermon title is Finding the Tomb of Jesus

Early thoughts: It made big news. Someone was convinced they had found the family tomb of Jesus and Mary -- and had the ossuary inscriptions and DNA results to prove it.

Among all the fuss were those who saw such a claim as a direct threat to their faith. To find the bones of Jesus was seen to contradict the Easter story. If Jesus was raised in body then his bones would not be around to be found. And to many the suggestion that Jesus was married and had children is an abominable suggestion.

Now there were many others who discounted the claims about the lost tomb for totally different reasons--it was simply bad science to make the claims they were making. Jeshua was a common name, so was Mary (in the Gospels alone there are enough Mary's that one needs a scorecard to keep them straight). All science could prove is that this was a family tomb and that two of the names were Jeshua/Jesus and Mary. DNA testing proves relationships betweent he bones but do we have a sample of DNA from Jesus of Nazareth, the one called Christ, to testagainst? Of course not. The claim is totally unproveable (coincidentally it is equally impossible to prove the claim wrong but the burden of proof lies on those making the claim).

This Sunday we talk about other people who went in search of the tomb of Jesus. Their search was based on love, not on seeking media glory. Jesus was their friend and they wanted to make sure his body was properly treated in burial. But of course their quest for a tomb and body was equally vain. Instead of anointing the body they found an empty cave. There was no body (or nobody) there. Instead there was the news that Jesus had been raised, that death had been conquered, that life had won.

There are a couple of places in Jerusalem that claim to be the site of that empty cave. There are special services held at sunrise on Easter at those places. But does it really matter if we know where the supposed tomb was? Does it really matter if there was even a tomb? In many cultures traitors were left on display as a warning to others. Jesus died the death of a political trouble maker, it is plausible that he was left to rot in the desert sun and there was no tomb (full or empty).

But in the end debates about what really happened will miss the point. Faith isn't based on historic events, faith is a matter of the heart. Each year we walk with the women to the garden seeking for the one who brings life. Each year we seek for the tomb, even though we know that it will be empty. We do it not so much because we want to see the hole but because we continue to hunger for the promised new life and rebirth.

There are many tombs in this world, many places of darkness and sadness. Easter provides the cure for all of them. This Sunday we walk to the place of death only to find life. May God bless us with the Good News yet again. CHrist is Risen, He is Risen Indeed. HALLELUJAH!

Looking Forward to April 6, 2007 -- Good Friday

Riverview will have a service at 10:00 am. Following our service all are invited to take part in the Ecumenical Good Friday Walk starting from out Upper Parking Lot at 11:00

The Scripture Readings for this service will be:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 52:13-53:12
  • From the Gospel: Luke 22:31-23:49
  • Psalm 22 (VU p.744 Part One)

The Hymns we will sing are:

  • #144 Were You There
  • #182 Stay with Us through the Night

The meditation is titled The Many Crosses

Early Thoughts: From time to time someone brings out the old story that Jesus didn't actually die on the cross. Sometimes it is an attempt to explain the empty tomb. Sometimes it is to prove some sort of conspiracy story. But of course it isn't based in Scripture, or in history.

The early church, it seems, had trouble with the crucifixion. One wonders if they wouldn't have welcomed a chance to get out of it by saying Jesus didn't really die on that cross. Modern Christians, it seems, would also like to forget the cross. We want to move from the triumph of Palms to the glory of empty tomb. We don't want shadows in our story.

But we can't do that of course. We have to acknowledge the reality of the cross. Not only because it is the only way the story makes any sense (how can there be resurrection without death?) but also because acknowledging the reality of that cross allows us to name the reality of the many crosses in our world today.

Friday morning we will take time to name some of those crosses, and to think about what our response is/could be.